1- No air
He's only conscious of the fact that he is suddenly very weak and of the weight of the black water over him, pushing him down into the darkness, away from the mending hole in the ice and blurry treetops and worried faces and blue skies over him, where the moon can be mildly seen. He, whose encounters with exhaustion in three-hundred-and-something years could be counted with a hand, finds himself too tired to move, to think, to fight back or even breathe. Something, the fragment of a memory, glitters in his eyes.
'Yeah' he thinks, as his heavy hands and even heavier feet try fleetingly to fight the weight over him 'This is how I died, right?'
Someone's calling. The voice, distorted by the water and muffled by the ice, is unfamiliar to him. What had he been doing before falling into this pit? He wasn't sure. It had to do with...with fearlings…yeah, those things. He struggles against the fog flooding his mind. He and the others…the worried faces somewhere above him…they had been fighting. How had he ended up falling? Ah, yes, one of the fearlings had charged against him. For a moment, he remembered it clearly, the fearling charging, and turning into a black whirlpool, literally sweeping him off his feet to make him twist in the blackness, carried by the spiral, his staff flying out of his hand by centrifugal force, the sound of the ice breaking somewhere close to him and then the impact of water that for once didn't turn to ice at his contact. A thought scratches the back of his mind fleetingly, and for a moment he recognizes the voice calling him again, but then it's gone, replaced by another memory. A girl, with a warm, relieved smile. He smiled back, letting out a little chuckle, and then something cracked below him and before he could realize what happened, he was already into the water, freezing, dark water, sinking, hearing her calling as the moon above them blurred and life left his body in the shape of bubbles that escaped his nose and mouth to run towards the surface.
'Yeah, this is it' murmurs a voice not unlike his own 'Suddenly, my nose was full of water, my chest and my throat burned, my hands twitched, trying to hold on to anything, but there was nothing to hold on to. I kept sinking, and sinking, and feeling my eyes roll up into their sockets and the tips of my fingers going numb, and mouthing like a fish until darkness ate me.'
Was that even his name, the one the faraway voice keeps calling? Damned if he knew. Maybe, at some point, he had been known with that name, but dead people don't need names, right? And, boy, was he dead. He had been for centuries, since that day when the game of hopscotch had gone wrong. Why bother if this was the way things were supposed to be from the start? He blinks sleepily a couple of times, his brow furrowed, as the faraway light becomes dim and finally disappears behind the wall of ice that's mended after his fall, and again feels the clawing of a thought trying to make its way through the fog of his mind again, before dying out, swallowed by it.
'…It's OK…' he thinks, as if soothing the thought, while everything becomes a blur of black and blue '… I wasn't supposed to come back, anyway…this is my grave…this is where I was supposed to stay…from the start…'
He repeats this to himself while his heavy eyelids close and his expression softens.
Suddenly, a sound catches his attention; a crunch, a little muted by the water but still audible, and then another, and another. What…? His brow furrows again. Even though his eyelids are heavy, he just has to see whatever's capable of making such a ruckus, so he opens his eyes, just a little, to have them see their last before going back into the darkness.
A crack, from which light is slowly filtering, tingeing the water a gray, morning color, then the crack gets bigger, and he barely distinguishes small dainty fingers pulling on one edge of the crack, making it even bigger.
His eyes are now fully open. He knows this voice. Another hand joins the first one and pulls, digging into the ice, until the crust of ice falls back, letting the light in. He blinks, his eyes narrowed at the sudden change in illumination, and then hears a sound that resembles a muffled explosion.
A body's hit the water, and generates a wave that moves him a little, between the bubbles, a flash of teal catches his attention. His eyes widen, alarmed.
She's there, struggling clumsily to reach him. He can even see the small silver bubbles clinging to her feathers briefly before flying towards the surface. She kicks, and wiggles her arms and wings, trying to dive, with little success. She's frantic, and he worriedly realizes she probably doesn't know how to swim to begin with.
'…no, Tooth…' he thinks, watching her struggle towards him, endangering herself '…go back…'
Her lips are pursed to prevent air from leaving her, her brow is knit. He finds himself gazing at her eyes. Even through centuries of endless wanderings, he's never seen anything like them. He doesn't even know the name of that shade of purple, but it reminds him of orchids, or amethysts. The lashes around them make them seem to glisten all the more. It takes him a moment to realize that they're glistening with anguish, with sorrow. Her sadness hurts him.
'…hey…no sad faces...' he tries to offer her a smile, even the smallest one, but even his face is numb 'It's OK… really…I was…supposed to have died…so long ago, anyway...'
Then he sees something else in those eyes. Determination.
'…Tooth, really…' he thinks, and this time, he almost does smile 'You've got to…go back to them…none of them…well, perhaps just Sandy… would accept it but…but they'd really be lost without you. Honestly, I don't know how they managed before they met you…'
Come to think of it, he doesn't know how he managed before meeting her. Without the now-and-then-reminders that someone was looking out for him. Without her catching up to him and reminding him he was supposed to rest a little or else he'd end up burning himself out, without the races for teeth, without the silent moments in which the both of them just stared at the sleeping children, side by side. Through these memories, others appear too.
That time when he'd found himself bored to death in the middle of the summer, so he'd flown to North's and spent a week helping him build a huge miniature train track with which they both played until an elf broke the train (The little bugger had been frozen to the ceiling before a minute was out) and they'd disarmed the track, a little reluctantly. That time when he and Sandy where having a friendly sparring and they realized he could freeze the golden dreamsand just as he had frozen Pitch's black one, so they experimented in mixing dreamsand and ice and created amazing golden dream statues that Sandy kept as a memento in his island, his smile wide and bright as he waved Jack goodbye, standing between two of them. That time when, due to a particularly hot Easter, the Eggs had begun melting in their hiding places and he'd 'Accidentally' frosted them a bit until the last one was found, and Bunnymund had 'Accidentally' sent him a huge Easter Egg, painted with frosty patterns.
Back in the present, Tooth's reaching out for him in the distance. He looks at her hand. It's so small, and it's reddened and covered with small gashes, was that caused by her digging and breaking the ice? He wants to apologize…a memory of North's huge, skillful hands and Bunnymund's soft-looking paws crosses the space between his eyelids. And of course, Sandy. His hands are probably the smallest, out of the five of them, but they're also hands that hold a power they can't even imagine. He can almost see them, his companions, his new family, digging into the ice until their hands bled, and reaching out to him just as Tooth is. The thought threatens to make him cry.
How had he been able to live without them? He honestly doesn't know. For years, decades, centuries, he could because he didn't know what he was missing. Now, though, the sole thought of having to part with them forever is destroying him. A thought surfaces, so powerful it drowns all the others even the voice telling him everything is useless.
'iWill I forget them just like I forgot my family?/i'
And this though finally kicks him into action. He doesn't want to forget any of the things he treasures again. Not Bunny's name-calling, not Sandy's gorgeous work, not North's laughter and kindness...
Not Tooth's eyes and voice.
He fights. He fights the paralysis that weights his limbs, and realizes, as the water shifts around him when he manages to move an arm, that it's only the fraction surrounding him that holds darkness.
The moon-dammed fearling. His staff is over the ice, but staff or no staff, he can still fight, and not freezing the water upon contact could, in this case, be used to his advantage. All it takes is for him to hit the damned thing and swim his way to the surface. The shifting of the water that revealed him his predicament shows it is possible. Mustering all the strength he can, he jerks his head back.
There is a noise, and an impact, and the darkness and paralysis around him seems to dissolve, or rather weight down into the water, freeing him. However, upon hitting the fearling, air has escaped his mouth.
'Well, damn' he inwardly curses, closing it before the water has a chance to go in.
This time, he is the one panicking, swimming as well as a person who hasn't taken a swim in more than three-hundred years can. Tooth realizes this and a look of relief washes over her; but upon the further discovery that Jack is a really sucky swimmer, worried lines crease her forehead again. She tries to dive for him again, but once again is unable to. Jack keeps trying to get closer, and this time it's his hand that reaches out to her, much to her chagrin, as she makes a double effort to go to him. However, both their advances are to slow, and he begins to feel pressure accumulating inside his head at the lack of air. His chest burns and his muscles twitch, his movements are becoming slower and weaker, and he comes to a complete halt not six yards away from Tooth, his hand still raised towards her.
'Am I going to die again?' he drunkenly wonders, and it hits him that he never really wondered whether he could. He guesses so, after all, the other Guardians had once thought they'd lost Sandy. Between the ringing in his ears and sleepy feeling, he sees Tooth, still struggling to reach him.
'Let it go, Tooth…' he thinks tiredly as he lets the air out through his nose because his chest is killing him...
Isn't she much closer, though?
The question answers itself as a small hand touches his fingers and palm, grasping his hand, then another small hand joins and firmly grasps his wrists and both hands pull. He feels himself moving through a multitude of bubbles, his body limp, his ears barely registering the sound of Tooth's desperate kicking and winging. Then, suddenly, he's a snowflake on the wind, swept here and there without having any say in it, without having the strength to resist or even open his eyes. The wind is dragging him up, up, up by the hand, and towards the bright, huge moon in the sky, and before he can wonder where exactly he is being taken, it stops and he is thrown up on a gravity-less impulse, colliding with something…or someone. Something soft that tickles brushes against him as two hands -two small hands- cup both his cheeks. Then it happens.
First, it's just a brush, timid, fleeting, almost as if the person touching him had gotten second thoughts. Then, warm and soft lips collide with mild strength against his mouth, prying his own lips open, and he's surprised to find bubbles of sweet, rainforest-like air entering it. He breathes them in hungrily, out of pure survival instinct. He is saved. But the touch over his mouth lingers, and he discovers a longing inside him, and that he needed this touch just as much as he needed the air. The hands that touch his jaw move to the back of his head, and the lips against his move, endearing. And they are warm, so warm he shouldn't want more, but he does. He responds, a little clumsily, and the spell is broken, his mouth is freed and he has to shut it immediately to prevent air from escaping him again. But now he's alert. He can feel bubbles brushing past him as he is hauled up, and there's a light, he can see it even through his eyelids. Is he still in the water? In any case, not for long, suddenly, a huge, furry paw and a bone-crushing grasp join that of the wind and he is pulled out of the water at a supersonic speed. Everything becomes a blur. He hears and not feels himself hitting the ground, face first, and for what seems hours, everything is confusion. He can hear voices, but the words are incomprehensible, and then someone is grasping him, turning him so that now he's lying on his back. Something warm drips over his face. Words are finally reaching him again.
He manages to pry his eyes open and Tooth's face appears, tears falling from her face to his, one of her small, wounded hands brushing the hair out of his forehead. As he opens his eyes, a breathless, strangled chuckle leaves her mouth.
"Jack…!" her voice is hoarse. He tries to speak, but before he can, her face is buried in the crook of his neck, her eyelashes tickling him, her shoulders shaking, and he is at loss of words.
"I'm…I'm so glad…!" she sobs.
As conscience slips from him again, he can just think he's sorry he made her cry.
C.C. (AKA) the author here.
I know the title is corny as hell, but it's supposed to be a pun on the alternate name of Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This fic was basically spawned from the idea that Jack's one weakness (Besides heat) is being underwater, what with him having drowned in his human life and stuff (Not to mention all the cool water temperature transfer shenanigans) This was supposed to be a short one-shot, but I got too excited with it and…well, you know how it goes. Anyway, I'm splitting it in three parts, cause it technically could end here, but this idea still has some interesting branches to it (It also gives me the chance to edit by blocks, so…yeah)
Thoughts and critics are very welcome.